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Covering over 58 percent of Alberta’s land-base, Boreal Forest Natural Region  is an immensely huge and diverse wilderness integral to maintaining Alberta’s biodiversity.

AWA believes that the Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta requires thoughtful management that integrates the social and economical needs of the region within a framework that prioritizes conserving the ecological integrity for generations to come.

    • Introduction
    • Features
    • Concerns
    • History
    • Archive
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    Boreal Forest PHOTO © C.Wearmouth

    Boreal Forest is the largest Natural Region is 381,046km2 in size within Alberta, which comprises almost 58 percent of its land base. Commencing north of the Foothills and Parkland Natural Region, the Boreal Forest of Alberta expands from the City of Edmonton to the most northern reaches of the province, and outlines most of the western and eastern provincial borders.

    This Natural Region represents a unique ensemble of forests interwoven by low-lying wetlands and watercourses that provides important habitat for many wildlife species, and bear some of the most productive aquatic communities within the province. Common species found in the Boreal Forest include moose, snowshoe hare, beaver, black bear, yellow perch, northern pike, walleye and a plentiful number of shorebirds, songbirds and raptors.

    The Boreal Forest also provides critical habitat for species at risk such as woodland caribou and wood bison. The diverse ecosystems of the Boreal Forest Natural Region provides countless vital ecological services for surrounding communities which includes clean air and water.

    Despite being a remote region, the Boreal Forest entertains a significant amount of human activity. The cumulation of industrial exploration and development, hydroelectric activity, agricultural conversion, and industrial scale logging has resulted in a significant amount of fragmentation and degradation of this wilderness.
    The local climate only allows for short growing seasons which are generally one to two months long with an average temperature of 15 c in the summer. Most of the rainfall occurs within July, with winters being longer and colder with a northwardly progression.

    The Boreal Forest has many distinctive and ecologically rich areas. To learn more about them, visit AWA Areas of Concern:
    • Cameron Hills
    • Bistcho
    • Caribou Mountains
    • Cache Creek-Wolverine
    • Chinchaga
    • Peace River
    • Harper
    • Birch-Wabasca
    • Old Fort
    • Athabasca Delta Dunes
    • McClelland Lake
    • Firebag
    • Wabasca River
    • Athabasca Rapids
    • Primrose-Lakeland
    • Athabasca River
    • Hay-Zama


    As of July 2018, 58,384km2 (or 15.4%) of the Boreal Forest Natural Region is protected through the designation of parks or protected areas. The remainder of this landscape is either privately owned or is public lands which are managed under a multiple land-use designation.


    Provincial Protected Areas within the Boreal Forest Natural Region are managed under eight distinct designations covered by three different legislative acts: the Provincial Parks Act; the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act; and the Willmore Wilderness Park Act.
    The Provincial Protected Areas vary in the amount of human activity and disturbance which can be facilitated on the landscape. Wilderness Areas and Ecological Reserves have the strictest limits to ensure the protection of the natural integrity of the wilderness above all other land-uses, while other protection designations such as Wildland Provincial Park and Provincial Recreation Areas prioritize recreation opportunities, and in some cases, industrial development.

    Public Lands

    Public lands within Alberta are divided into two broad land-use categories: the White Area and the Green Area. The White Area, otherwise known as the settled area, and the Green Area, otherwise known as the forested area, are both managed for various land-uses; natural resource exploration and development, ecological services, and recreational opportunities. Unlike the Green Area, there are substantially more agricultural dispositions on public lands within the White Area. The administration and management of public lands is overseen by two regulatory bodies: the Alberta Energy Regulator and Alberta Environment and Parks.

    Land-use Framework

    In 2008, the Government of Alberta promised to develop seven Land-use Framework regional plans that outline the integrated management of Alberta’s land and resources. The Boreal Forest Natural Region falls within multiple land-use frameworks which include the Lower Peace, Upper Peace, Lower Athabasca, Upper Athabasca, and segments of the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan
    While the Land-use Framework outlines important conservation objectives and an ecosystem based ethic for the integrated management of Alberta’s natural resources, this framework lacks any legislative support to ensure these principals for responsible management are adhered to. In order to realize the full potential of regional plans, corroboration with other regulatory mechanisms is required.


    AWA believes that in order to conserve the Boreal Forest Natural Region as a ecologically rich landscape, management must prioritize protecting habitat, wildlife and the natural functioning of the region over development for industrial or commercial purposes. AWA also supports indigenous lead management strategies that support local communities, and enable First Nations to continue practicing their traditions and treaty rights.


    The Boreal Forest Natural Region is 378,046km2 in size, containing a total of eight distinct Natural Subregions, with all of which combines to total over 58% of Alberta’s landbase. This Natural Region begins slightly north, east and west of the City of Edmonton, extending to the far reaches of the Alberta-Northwest Territory provincial border. Various highways that are currently routed through this landscape include Highway 63, 35 and 2.


    Alberta’s Boreal Forest Natural Region includes both lentic (still water) and lotic (running water) freshwater habitats. The Boreal Forest Natural Region resides within multiple river basins in Alberta which includes the Hay, Peace-Slave, Athabasca, Beaver River Basin and parts of both the North and South Saskatchewan River Basin. The northern part of this Natural Region drains into the Mackenzie Valley Basin by way of the Peace, Athabasca and Slave River, while the southern part of the Boreal Forest drains into the Saskatchewan River system via the North Saskatchewan River.

    Notable rivers within this Natural Region include the Hay River, Chinchaga River, Liard River, Slave River, Peace River and Athabasca River. Important tributaries within the region include the Little Smoky, Smoky, Mcleod, Pembina, Wabasca and Clearwater. Approximately 3 percent of the Boreal Forest is covered by lakes, which includes some of the largest found in Alberta: Claire, Lesser Slave, Bistcho, Utikuma, Cold, Lac La Biche, and Peerless Lake. One of the most notable natural features of the Boreal Forest Region in Alberta is the Peace-Athabasca Delta, located in the far northeastern corner of the province. The Peace-Athabasca Delta is the largest freshwater inland river delta in North America, providing important nesting and staging areas for waterfowl, and is recognized under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance.


    Wetlands are an important natural feature that are responsible for characterizing a significant portion of the Boreal Forest; they are diverse natural features that provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, in addition to important ecological services such as nutrient dispersal, carbon sequestering, and water cleansing, retention, and filtration(Kennedy and Wilson 2009) . Wetlands are defined as areas where the water table is at or above the mineral soil level for the entire year, however, they can differ in the amount of organic materials they retain. Peatlands are wetlands that have an accumulation of 40 cm or more of organic debris above the mineral soil level, with examples being treed, shrubby or open fens or bogs. Fens can be ribbed or stringed, and they are systems that are in continuous contact with ground water making them fairly nutrient rich. In comparison, bogs are generally nutrient poor because they are not in contact with groundwater sources, and depend on precipitation for the majority of their nutrients and water.


    The Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta resides within the Interior Plains; a physiogeopgraphic region that spans an area from the Gulf Coast to the Arctic Ocean along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. This region was formed during the Paleoproterozic Era when the cratons fused together. The Boreal Forest Natural Region also covers all or parts of other physiographic regions as defined by Pettapiece (1986) which includes: Eastern Alberta Plains, Northern Plains, Saskatchewan Plains, Northern Alberta Lowlands; Northern Alberta Uplands, and Western Alberta Plains.

    The Interior Plains is overlaid by the Alberta Basin which is a sedimentary basin that extends from British Columbia through Alberta, Saskatchewan and into Manitoba. The Alberta basin was created in the Devonain Period, approximately 415 to 360 million years ago, when the Earth’s crust sank below the continental side of the Rockies. Eventually, this area became covered in water, and gradually accumulated marine sediments and reefs along the margins and at deep points within the basin. A significant portion of the Boreal Forest is also underlain by a thick layer of predominately clastic Cretaceous-Tertiary succession composed of shales and sandstones.
    Topographically, the Natural Region consists of a series of large and gently undulating hills, lowlands plains, major valley systems, and some uplands. Boreal Forest upland areas are characterized by hill complexes or plateaus as seen within Cameron Hills and Caribou or Birch Mountains respectively.

    The topography of the Boreal Forest Natural Region was significantly shaped by the glaciation period during the Pleistocene Epoch, which had a total of four ice sheet advancements (Cumming et al 1996).The Caribou and Birch Mountains are considered remnants or escarpments from the final glacial advance in the Wisconsin glaciation; these escarpments rise 500-700m above surrounding lowland. During that time, the Laurentide ice sheet moved southwestward across the northern part of Alberta, eventually reaching south near the Edmonton region.

    Gray Luvisolic and Organic soils are the most dominate soil types within the Boreal Forest Natural Region, and are generally associated with the type of drainage conditions and parent materials present. Gray Luvisolic soils are found in well-drained sites that are derived from glacial till, fluvioglacial, or fluviolacustrine deposits. Comparatively, Organic soils occur in poorly drained low-lying areas or upland plateaus, and are associated with peat forming wetlands. Another distinct feature of the Boreal Forest is the occurrence of sporadic discontinuous permafrost. Northernmost portion of Alberta, in areas such as Bistcho Lake and the Caribou Mountains, encompass the southern fringe of Canada’s permafrost region.

    Environmentally Significant Areas

    Considering the vastness and variability in topography, geology, and flora and fauna, the Boreal Forest Natural Region has many environmental areas of provincial, national, and international significance. Remnants of the region’s pre-glacial topography such as the Caribou Mountains or Cameron Hills are not only provincially unique features, but also enable and increase regional biodiversity by allowing for the growth and sustenance of distinctive vegetation and animal species.

    Aside from providing numerous resident bird species with habitat, the waterbodies and wetlands of the Boreal Forest Natural Region provides essential habitat for staging, resting, and feeding for many migratory birds during the spring and fall. The Peace-Athabasca Delta, in the far northeastern segment of Alberta, is the largest freshwater delta of the province, and has international ecological significance, under the Rasmar Convention, because it supports so many migrating and resident bird populations.

    The Boreal Forest also represents the last front of critical habitat remaining for boreal woodland caribou and wood bison within the province of Alberta. Seeing as both of these species are keystone species, they generally have a large disproportionate impact their ecosystems, and their extirpation would result in crippling effects on the ecological composition, resiliency, and integrity of the Boreal Forest.

    The Boreal Forest has many environmentally significant areas, and to learn more about them, visit AWA Areas of Concern:
    • Cameron Hills
    • Bistcho
    • Caribou Mountains
    • Cache Creek-Wolverine
    • Chinchaga
    • Peace River
    • Harper
    • Birch-Wabasca
    • Old Fort
    • Athabasca Delta Dunes
    • McClelland Lake
    • Firebag
    • Wabasca River
    • Athabasca Rapids
    • Primrose-Lakeland
    • Athabasca River

    Natural Regions

    (Information sourced from Alberta Parks 2017)

    The Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta is a vast landscape that is characterized by gentle to undulating hills, lowlands, uplands that are covered with various types of tree stands, wetlands and waterbodies. This Natural Region has a total of eight Natural Subregions which are more narrowly defined geographic regions that are separated by their differences in vegetation, geology and landforms. These include:

    • Central Mixedwood
    • Dry Mixedwood
    • Northern Mixedwood
    • Boreal Subarctic
    • Peace-Athabasca Delta
    • Lower Boreal Highlands
    • Upper Boreal Highlands
    • Athabasca Plain


    The northward transition from Alberta’s grasslands and parkland into the southern extremity of the Boreal Forest Natural Region is marked by climatic changes such as an increase in annual precipitation, decrease in temperature, and declining evaporation rates. This change in climate is also accompanied with a change in the composition of vegetation communities. A gradual south to north progression is indicated by the change from mixedwood forests to more conifer dominated forests. Differences site drainage, aspect, elevation and soil type, can be seen between Natural Subregions of the Boreal Forest.

    Central Mixedwood-This subregion encompasses the western, eastern and southern extremities of AWA’s Birch-Wabasca Area of Concern. It has a continental climate, which is defined by cold winters and warm summers. The undulating plains, extensive wetlands, and hummocky uplands of this subregion are dominated by stands of pure aspen, white spruce-aspen or pure white spruce stands which are generally located in areas of till and lacustrine. Jack pine stands occur in areas with more coarse material, with black spruce being found in bogs and fens. Gray Luvisolic soils are dominant in this landscape in addition to Gleysolic soils. Canadian buffaloberry, low brush cranberry, and prickly rose are common to the understory. A mix of wild sarsaparilla, hairy wild rye, and tall lungwort are featured in herb communities in addition to feathermosses.

    Upper Boreal Highlands-The Upper Boreal Highlands Natural Subregion is higher in elevation, with a change in vegetation indicating the transition from Lower Boreal Highlands Natural Subregion. This natural subregion occurs on the slopes and plateaus of the Birch Mountains with coniferous forests of lodgepole pine, black spruce or lodgepole-jack pine hybrid stands covering the majority of this landscape. Bogs are more commonly found with some areas containing fens. The understory species common to these areas are cloudberry, Labrador tea, sphagnum moss, and bog berry.

    Lower Boreal Highlands-The Lower Boreal Highlands Natural Subregion occupies a significant portion of the landbase in AWA’s Birch-Wabasca Area of Concern. This subregion is defined by slopes with diverse mixedwood forests with common species such as white birch, aspen, and white spruce. Jack pine or jack pine-lodgepole stands are common in more dry areas. Many areas contain fens or bogs with species such as sphagnum moss, dwarf bog-rosemary,water sedges, bog cranberry and willow being common to the understory.

    Athabasca Plains-This subregion is relatively small, occupying only the small eastern fringe of AWA’s Birch-Wabasca Area of Concern. This subregion includes level to undulating sandy fluvial and eolian plains with some prominent dune fields in the northern and eastern areas of this region. Water levels vary across this subregion with some drier areas being covered in jack pine tree stands with understories of lichen, bearberry, common blueberry, bog cranberry, willows, river alder, horsetails and Canada buffaloberry. Occasionally white spruce can also be found in these sites however, so mature specimens are rare because of frequent fire return intervals and heavily drained soils. Sand dunes have special vegetative communities which stabilize the surfaces of the dunes, but areas of bare sand do exist (cite) Moist rich sites are relatively uncommon for this region, but they can be found along the rivers and around small lakes. Aspen, balsam poplar, white spruce, black spruce and white birch occur in these areas. Wetland areas in this subregion can be treed, shrubby or graminoid (open) fens. Vegetative cover common in wetland areas of this subregion include black spruce, tamarack, common Labrador tea, peat mosses and feathermosses.

    Boreal Subarctic- This region is characterized by black spruce bogs with discontinuous permafrost on elevated plateaus. Lodgepole pine and Alaska birch are also found within this region. In lower lying areas, collapsed scar bogs are commonly found which are covered by sheathed cotton grass, and peatmosses. Cooler climates within this area result in a considerably slow and restricted growing season. Low temperatures, water-saturated organic and moss layers, in addition to lower sun angles, all contribute to the development of permafrost which also restricts plant growth. Shrub layers generally consist of Labrador tea, cloudberry and green reindeer lichen.

    Dry Mixedwood- Dry Mixedwood is the second largest of Alberta’s Subregions, representing a transition zone between the Central Parkland and the Central Mixedwood Subregions of Alberta. The undulating plains of this subregion are dominated by wetlands found in lower lying areas and forests. This area is characterized by a mix of deciduous and coniferous tree species. Aspen is very common in this region, with balsam poplar being found alongside aspen in more moist sites. White spruce and balsam fir become more dominant with succession. Drier and sandier uplands host Jack pine forest which can have considerable ground coverage from lichen species. Common shrubs found include rose, low-bush cranberry, Canada buffaloberry, and redosier dogwood. Southern facing slopes are generally drier and are populated by grass species such as porcupine grass, sedges and June grass.

    Northern Mixedwood-This subregion, is defined by lowlands with stunted black spruce bogs and fens, and discontinuous permafrost. Better drainage generally occurs on upland sites where mixedwood forests of aspen, balsam popular, white and black spruce dominate the tree cover. Understory species include bog cranberry, cloudberry, peat moss, reindeer lichens, common and Labrador tea.

    Peace-Athabasca Delta- As the largest freshwater delta in the world, the Peace-Athabasca Delta Natural Subregion is composed mostly of the delta itself, however, there are areas that include the uppermost region of the Slave River and the lowermost portion of the Peace River. Residing south and west of Kaje Athabasca, this Natural Subregion is characterized by numerous shallow and marshy lakes, in addition to shrubby and forested uplands, lowland areas, and sediment-built levees. Of all Natural Subregions within the Boreal Forest, the Peace-Athabasca Delta has the warmest and longest growing season, with winters being quite cold because of the influence of the polar and arctic weather systems. With water being the predominate factor within this landscape, the composition and distribution of vegetation is entirely determined by water. Pondweeds are the dominate aquatic vegetation, with willow flats and mature balsam poplar occupying the terraces along river channels, in addition to white spruce forests populated islands and older terraces. Awned sedges, spangletop grasses, and river alder are also common in this Natural Subregion.



    (Information sourced from Alberta Parks 2017)

    A limiting factor for species richness within the Boreal Forest in comparison to other Natural Regions are the harsh cold winters. A northward trend of a decrease in biodiversity for animal and plant species coincides with severe long winters, with the number of frost-free days averaging 85. Despite the cooler climatic conditions, the Boreal Forest Natural Region of Alberta does support numerous wildlife ranges.


    Common mammals throughout the Boreal Forest Natural Region include:

    • Masked shrew,
    • Red squirrel,
    • Gray wolf,
    • Wolverine,
    • Water shrew,
    • Arctic Shrew,
    • Northern Long-eared Bat,
    • Northern Flying squrriel,
    • Taiga Vole,
    • Meadow Jumping mouse,
    • Arctic fox,
    • Fisher,
    • Beaver,
    • Otter,
    • Black bear,
    • Canadian lynx,
    • Moose,
    • Woodland caribou, and
    • Wood bison.

    Fish and Amphibians

    The watercourses and riparian areas of the Boreal Forest Natural Region are commonly inhabited by:

    • Boreal chorus frog,
    • Wood frog,
    • Western toads,
    • Canadian toads,
    • Red-sided garter snake
    • Northern pike,
    • Yellow perch,
    • Arctic grayling,
    • Burbot,
    • Goldeye,
    • Ninespine Stickleback,
    • Walleye,
    • Iowa darter,
    • Northern redbelly dace,
    • Lake chub,
    • Longnose,
    • White suckers,
    • Emerald, and
    • Slimy sculpin.


    The Boreal Forest Natural Region is known for the species richness with regards to resident and migratory bird populations. Species of birds that have habitat ranges within the Boreal Forest include:

    • Gulls
    • Red-necked Phalarope
    • Blackburnian warbler,
    • Yellow warbler,
    • Black-and-white warbler,
    • Willow ptarmigan,
    • Yellow rail,
    • Sedge wren,
    • Great-crested flycatcher,
    • Chestnut-sided warbler,
    • Whopping Crane,
    • Mourning Warbler,
    • American redstart,
    • Song sparrow,
    • Northern waterthrush,
    • Fox sparrow,
    • Philadelphia vireo,
    • Barred owl,
    • Least flycatcher,
    • House wren,
    • Ovenbird,
    • Red-eyed vireos,
    • Warbling vireos,
    • Northern goshawk
    • Western wood pewee,
    • Ruby-crowned kinglets,
    • Boreal chickadee,
    • Gray jay, and
    • Chipping sparrow.


    For First Nations, the boreal forest was a place of sustenance both for material goods such as shelter, food, clothing, but also for spiritually. European settlers in Canada adopted a highly utilitarian approach toward the boreal forest seeing it as a source of material wealth (furs) or obstacle to “progress” as represented by settlement, agriculture, and resource extraction.


    Common activities throughout the Boreal Forest Natural Region include, but are not restricted to:
    • Backcountry camping,
    • Backcountry hiking,
    • Hunting,
    • Fishing,
    • Trapping,
    • Winter camping,
    • Canoeing
    • Kayaking,
    • Wildlife viewing,
    • Power boating,
    • Birding,
    • OHV riding,
    • Cross country skiing,
    • Snowshoeing,
    • Ice fishing, and
    • Snowmobiling.

    Industrial and Commercial Activity

    Over the few past decades, the increase in industrial and commercial activities within Alberta’s Boreal Forest Natural Region has continually risen, which has ultimately created higher levels of habitat fragmentation, degradation, and loss. Land-use activities have resulted in many parts of the Boreal Forest becoming more accessible to human use, and therein, altered entirely. Logging of forests, conversion of landscapes to cropland, high-impact recreation, and oil and gas developments have diminished the quality and quantity of habitat that are essential to the survival of many boreal species including woodland caribou. Woodland caribou are considered a keystone species, because they have a disproportionately large impact on their environment affecting the structure and integrity of an ecosystem. By decreasing the amount of caribou habitat available within the Boreal Forest, Alberta runs the risk of causing woodland caribou to become extirpated, subsequently decreasing the overall biodiversity of the Natural Region. AWA believes that management strategies for the Boreal Forest must prioritize conserving the natural integrity and functioning of this Natural Region in order to sustain many social, economical, and basic vital needs for our communities. Healthy and productive ecosystems are far more resilient to change, which becomes a pressing issue when considering the global phenomenon of global warming.

    Climate Change

    As the global temperature continues to rise, vegetation belts such as the Boreal Forest are also anticipated to shift northward chasing cooler climatic conditions. Despite this migration, a cascade of effects are still anticipated to occur, creating positive feedback loops that will therein further contribute to global warming. Increasing temperatures will increase the likelihood of wildfires, plant desiccation, which in turns reduces the amount of plant biomass. Wildfires amplify the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, ultimately further contributing to an increase in global temperature. Warming temperatures will also bring about more insect attacks, fungal infections and other diseases within boreal forests. Many pathogens and insects common to southern ranges will be able to move north, infecting trees that have no adaptability or resistance because the lack of co-evolution. AWA believes that conserving the Boreal Forest Natural Region is not only essential to conserving biodiversity, but is a key element in combating climate change, and in protecting crucial life services that are critical in sustaining mankind for generations.



    In May, the Forests Amendment Act came into force on May 1st, 2021. The Forests Amendment Act is an update to the Forests Act (1971) and is intended to facilitate commercial interests. It was proposed in October 2020 without any public or indigenous consultation. AWA is disappointed at the missed opportunity for needed reforms to support forest ecosystems and transparent, inclusive forest management.

    In February, the Alberta government announced important advancements for northeast Alberta wildlife conservation and the exercise of Indigenous rights. AWA welcomes the proposed expansion of the Kitaskino Nuwenëné Wildland Provincial Park and the approval of the precedent-setting Moose Lake Access Management Plan. The Moose Lake Access Management Plan is a truly innovative advance in the management of cumulative industrial impacts on Alberta public lands.


    In November, the Alberta government removed the $5 fee for harvesting up to three Christmas trees from Crown land.

    The U.S. Department of Commerce ruled to retroactively lower tariffs for forest companies that participated in the first administrative review of softwood lumber litigation as of January 2018, as well as rates applied to future exports.

    In October, the government of Alberta allocated new timber quotas in Forest Management Units G16 and S22. 51,000 cubic metres of deciduous timber was allocated in G16, about 70 kilometres northwest of Grande Prairie and 21,000 cubic metres of coniferous timber was allocated in S22, about 300 kilometres north of Edmonton.

    In May, annual allowable cut was increased by 13% province-wide as part of the Forest Jobs Action Plan. To our knowledge, there was no assessment of how this increase in AAC would impact valued ecosystem components such as biodiversity, water quality and flow, or wildlife habitat.

    In April, the government of Alberta announced that it will defer timber dues for six months to help forestry companies continue operating amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


    In December, there is a proposal to sell 140,000 hectares of Alberta public lands to Mackenzie County, that would convert vital boreal native habitat into agricultural lands and grazing reserves.


    In October, AWA and eight other environmental organizations sent a letter to Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources concerning a Forest Products Association of Canada publication. The report claimed that FPAC’s efforts on caribou conservation represented leadership, when in reality FPAC’s conservation plan didn’t meet the minimum science-based habitat requirements necessary for long-term caribou survival.

    In May, the Alberta government announced they will officially establish the four large northeast wildland parks identified in the 2012 Lower Athabasca regional plan, and create an additional new wildland park. The new parks will provide important protection for Boreal and Canadian Shield natural regions of Alberta. Red Earth, Richardson and Cold Lake caribou populations will benefit from this additional protection.


    AWA followed the development of the Alberta government’s proposed ‘structure retention’ policy that we had encouraged the previous year. The 2016 draft policy proposed to maintain at least 10 percent of forest structure within merchantable forest stands, which we viewed as the bare minimum supported by research. We were disappointed to learn that the proposed 10 percent minimum average retention was reduced to 5 percent plus existing riparian buffers, so less than 10 percent in total.


    In December, $5.6 million in federal funding is secured by Genome Alberta for the Resilient Forests: Climate Pests & Policy – Genomic Applications project. This project is led by Alberta and will assess the ability of trees to adapt to threats such as climate-change and climate-induced insect outbreaks.

    In November, the United States Lumber Coalition files a petition with the US Department of Commerce to investigate Canada’s softwood lumber exports and potentially add new duties to softwood imports.

    In July, Global Forest Watch Canada releases Canada’s Intact Forest Landscapes Updated to 2013.  The report found that intact forest landscapes declined by 4.8% from the year 2000.  Approximately 17.5% of this forest loss was located within protected areas.


    In October, the Softwood Lumber Agreement (signed in 2006) between the United States and Canada expires on October 12.  A 1 year moratorium on the US lumber industry’s ability to take legal action against Canada’s softwood lumber industry is instated.

    In July, AWA sends a letter to FSC Canada’s President, outlining the need for FSC to take control over the auditing process to ensure it is truly independent of industry. As it stands today, FSC sets the rules and accredits independent certifying organizations to carry out the audits of forest management to the agreed set of principles and criteria. Forestry companies then hire any of the accredited certifying organizations and are able to transfer to a different certifier once every five years.


    In February, New findings by Global Forest Watch Canada (GFWC) show cumulative effects management of Alberta’s public lands and waters is lagging. Industrial forestry and energy leasing are far outpacing environmental protection and promised stewardship of land and water across Alberta’s public lands.


    In August, Alberta has halted logging for one year in a significant part of the Little Smoky caribou range, one of fifteen caribou herds on provincial lands, to allow range plan development that will protect critical habitat and recover the caribou population. The newly approved forest management plan for Alberta Newsprint Company (ANC) requires a one year deferral across the Little Smoky herd range northeast of Jasper National Park. However, intensive logging so far remains within ANC’s newly government-approved 10 year harvest plan in the adjacent A La Peche caribou herd’s critical habitat. Alberta Wilderness Association (AWA) welcomes the Little Smoky logging decision by the Redford government as another good step in the survival chances this caribou herd.


    In May, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement is signed by the Canadian Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) and nine environmental organizations. The agreement aims to protect 72 million hectares of forest through sustainable harvesting practices and habitat conservation.


    In January, Alberta’s threatened woodland caribou suffer one more nail in the coffin by the Alberta Forest Products Association’s decision to clearcut for pine beetle in caribou habitat.


    In May, the Alberta Forest Product Association releases the results of their Alberta Forest Usage Survey. The survey was intended to understand “societal values Albertan’s [sic] hold towards their forestlands.”  The top four values identified in the survey are:

    • replanting/reforestation,
    • protection of wildlife and habitat
    • harvesting practices that manage ecological impacts, and
    • regulations or restrictions on industrial land use.

    The AWA reports that the results of the Alberta Forest Products Association survey of Autumn 2005 indicate that, like the AWA, Albertans support “responsible ecosystem-based forest management that does not compromise wildlife and wilderness values …”


    In March, an article in Alberta Venture states, “Al-Pac has applied for certification with the FSC … Because environmental groups … help set FSC standards, Al-Pac must meet much tougher conditions for certification than its forestry management agreement with the Alberta government stipulates.”


    In August, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) National Boreal Standard for Canada is published. The Standard “is intended to identify the practices to be employed in a well-managed Canadian boreal forest.”

    In May, a report released by Global Forest Watch Canada states that between 1975 and 2001, the annual area logged in Alberta increased by 214%.

    On February 4, an article in the Edmonton Journal states, “Bob Fessenden, deputy minister for Alberta Sustainable Development, told a conference on sustainable forest practices that the provincial government remains neutral on certification and does not endorse any single standard.” Lack of certification (such as FSC) reduces the potential buyers of lumber.


    In September, Canada’s Large Intact Forest Landscapes, a report by Global Forest Watch Canada, states that only 17% of Alberta’s natural, unprotected forests are ecologically intact and untouched by development.


    In December, the Federation of Alberta Naturalists and The Alberta Centre for Boreal Research publish Richard Schneider’s book Alternative Futures: Alberta’s Boreal Forest at the Crossroads. Schneider states that “the current system of forest management in Alberta is a relic of the 1950s, and is in serious need of repair.” The book represents “the culmination of the [Alberta Centre for Boreal Research’s] first three years of work.”  Schneider provides good historical information on the development of Alberta’s forest industry.


    In December, “Whatever Happened to the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy?” by Richard Schneider, Alberta Centre for Boreal Research, is published in Encompass. Schneider provides an update on governmental activity vis-à-vis the AFCS; the primary conclusion is that the government has not implemented any of the strategies outlined in the AFCS, but continues to focus on using forests for their economic values. Schneider does point out, however, that the forestry industry itself is stepping into the void created by government inaction. Forestry companies are responding to the public’s demand for responsible forest management, and have implemented forest certification through the Forest Stewardship Council.

    In November, the AWA and three other non-profit organizations publish Structural Impediments to FSC Certification in Alberta: Overcoming Barriers to Well-Managed Forests. The report highlights two impediments to well-managed forests and FSC certification:

    • The lack of a scientifically-defensible protected areas network in Alberta;
    • The inability of Alberta’s forest industry to manage forests for ecological sustainability due to the activities of Alberta’s petroleum industry.

    The report concludes that there are strategies to removing these impediments, and calls on government to provide the leadership to ensure the impediments are removed.

    The Pembina Institute publishes The Alberta GPI Accounts: Forests. (GPI = Genuine Progress Indicators). The report’s conclusion states: “…while the economic benefits in terms of Alberta’s forestry GDP have increased handsomely in 40 years there are reasons to be concerned about the long-term sustainability of Alberta’s timber supply and the condition of the forest ecosystem at current rates of industrial development and human impacts.”

    In October, the FSC Board of Directors approves the AWA’s application for membership in the Forest Stewardship Council in the Environmental – North Chamber


    In January, three conservation groups (Albertans for a Wild Chinchaga, CPAWS (Edmonton) and the World Wildlife Fund Canada invite forest companies and other stakeholders in the management of forestry practices to attend a meeting on the Forest Stewardship Council and to discuss possibilities for an FSC initiative in Alberta.


    In May, the Old-Growth Forests of Alberta by Kevin P Timoney is published. In his conclusion, Timoney states “Old-growth forests in Alberta are disappearing at an exponential rate. If the public does not gain control immediately, old-growth forests and crown land in Alberta will share the fate of the plains grizzly and the passenger pigeon.”

    In an article in the Wild Lands Advocate Glenda Hanna (President, AWA) charges that the government is choosing to ignore the principles of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy. Hanna states that the Alberta Forest Legacy document is “a shallow, highly selective abstract of the … AFCS … the content and context suggests strongly that it will be interpreted at every turn to meet a pro-development, anti-conservation agenda.”

    In spring, the Alberta Forest Legacy document is released by Alberta Environmental Protection.  This is the provincial government’s response to the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.  The document states that the Alberta Forest Legacy “…challenges us to… blend consideration of all resources values, measurable and perceived …”  The first subheading is Economic Opportunities Today and Tomorrow and discusses the importance of forest lands as a source of income.  Ecological Integrity of the Forest states that forest ecosystems are “subject to change… [due to] … recent human activities.”  “Maintenance of heritage areas in support of forest conservation will be achieved as necessary …” “The Alberta Forest Legacy accepts the vision, goal and principles of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.”

    In January, an AWA media release criticizes the provincial government for ignoring public input it received in developing the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.  Glenda Hanna of AWA states that “Most of the actions of Minister of Environmental Protection, Ty Lund, and his staff … remain consistently and consciously contrary to the spirit, intent, and content of the AFCS … the government continues to overallocate forests for resource extraction and to ignore direction to include meaningful public input in decision making …”


    In September, the Alberta Forest Management Science Council presents its report, Sustainable Forest Management and its Major Elements: Advice to the Lands and Forest Service on Timber Supply and Management. The report recommends five elements of sustainable forest management:

    • Ecological Integrity and Inherent Disturbance
    • Desired Future Forest
    • Social and Economic Values and Public Involvement
    • Scales – Spatial and Temporal
    • Adaptive Management

    The report concludes that their “definition of Sustainable Forest Management is consistent with but not the same as the definitions of the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers or the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy. The Council has changed the definition so that a clear connection between ecological integrity and social and economic values can be made. The Council advises the Land and Forest Service to raise this difference to the Minister of Environmental Protection and the Minister of Natural Resources Canada to ensure that this protocol is consistent with Alberta’s and Canada’s approach to Sustainable Forest Management nationally and internationally.”

    In June, Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy is published.  This 29-page document outlines the vision, goal, and principles of the AFCS, and its focus on sustainability, ecological management, sustainable forest economy, protected areas, range of management intensities, and participation and partnerships.

    The AFCS Vision for Alberta’s forests is:

    • “For centuries to come, Alberta will have vast forest areas, including forest areas with a pristine character, in which natural structures and functions continue to evolve.
    • Forest areas will continue to meet our needs for ecosystem services such as clean air and water, as well as economic opportunity, material goods, recreation, leisure and spiritual connection.
    • Albertans will have the opportunity to be informed and to participate in decisions made affecting the forest. Users of the forest will work as partners to meet the challenges of sustaining the forest.”

    Five Strategic Directions are:

    • Ecological Management. “Ecological management proposes that forestry and other human activities be conducted in ways that resemble the scale and effects of natural disturbances. The forests that result, and the environmental benefits we gain, should be similar to those crafted by natural ecosystem processes.”
    • Sustainable Forest Economy. “Alberta’ s economic gains can be enhanced by looking for ways to process and add value to raw products from the forest ecosystems.”
    • Protected Areas. “The Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy calls for protection of a network of representative areas within the forest ecosystems… protected areas are needed as storehouses of information and scientific controls. They are also vital to the realization of other values, such as recreation, tourism, culture, and wildlife habitat.”
    • Range of Management Intensities. “Four management intensities are proposed within the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy – extensive management, intensive management, facility, and protection.”
    • Participation and Partnerships. “Participation in decisions, and partnerships in implementing ecological management, are key elements of forest sustainability.”


    In January, Alberta Environmental Protection implements a new permit system for transporting logs harvested on private land. (Alberta Regulation 296/95, Timber Management Regulation).  All land holders who plan to harvest their coniferous timber and haul it on a public highway must purchase a permit form; one permit ($10.70) is good for hauling one load.

    Alberta Environmental Protection conducts a logging truck check stop at the Banff Park gates; five warnings were handed out for mostly minor infractions. A second check stop is held in early February 1996 at various locations in Alberta; there are 14 infractions and one load seized.  All of the private timber was being exported to timber processing mills in BC.

    Forestry Stewardship Council Canada Working Group is created.

    The Alberta Government creates the Alberta Forest Management Science Council through the Minister for Environmental Protection. The AFMSC is asked to “provide advice to the Land and Forest Service on Timber Supply Protocols, particularly the science base required to change from Sustained Yield Management to Sustainable Forest Management.” The report is published in September 1997.


    In December, Alberta Environmental Protection introduces a new permit system for transporting coniferous logs harvested on private land.

    In September, the Alberta Registered Professional Foresters Association puts forth a proposal to license the practice of forestry in Alberta.

    In March, Premier Ralph Klein sets up a task force of cabinet ministers to find way to curb logging on private land.

    In February, Environment Minister Ty Lund states that tougher forestry policies in BC are to blame for the boom in logging on private lands and native reserves in Alberta.


    In June, the Forest Conservation Strategy Stakeholders hold a meeting to discuss the deforestation of private and public lands in the White Zone (settled areas). Attendees express concerns including private land cutting, the conversion of public forested land to marginal agriculture land, the export of jobs and profits, the increasing loss of wildlife habitat, damage to watersheds and water quality, and erosion.

    Director of the AWA, writes to Brian Evans, Minister of Environmental Protection to protest “the extent and rapaciousness of the cutting happening on private lands [and that] White Zone (settled area) liquidation is still as wide-spread as it is.”  Pharis also expresses concern that “grazing lease holders can cut, sell and profit from forests on public lands within the White Zone.”


    In September, “Marketing Timber: From Private Land In Alberta” is published as “a joint publication of the Canadian Forest Service and Alberta Land & Forest Services pursuant to the Canada-Alberta Partnership Agreement in Forestry,” intended to educate landowners who are considering selling merchantable timber on their land.

    In March, Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy: Report of the Initiating Workshop, March 10-11, is published.  The workshop was “an attempt to develop stakeholder consensus on the need for, and character of a Forest Conservation Strategy for Alberta … Ken Higginbotham, Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for the Alberta Forest Service, committed to the development of a Forest Conservation Strategy within the next two years and … agreed that the Forest Act needed to be reviewed and would likely require amendment once the Strategy was completed.” (AWA File A.F.C.S. 1993).  “The workshop concluded with the creation of an interim steering committee whose responsibilities were to include … developing a proposed process for the further development of the Strategy.”

    The Forestry Stewardship Council, an international non-profit organization, is founded to support environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.


    In December, the Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association present Toward the Development of An Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy to Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife. The document outlines the vision, composition, procedure and timeline of the AEN and AFPA Forest Policy Subcommittee.

    In September, Jerry Bauer of Canadian Forest Products Ltd., and Glenda Hanna of the AWA inform Ken Higginbotham, Assistant Deputy Minister, Alberta Forestry, Lands, and Wildlife, of the meetings between the Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association, and the formation of the Forest Conservation Strategy subcommittee. Bauer offered to provide members of the subcommittee to assist in the creation of a Forest Conservation Strategy. This appears to be the first formal involvement with government agencies in the creation of a Forest Conservation Strategy.

    In June, at a meeting of the Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association, a subcommittee is formed to work on a Forest Conservation Strategy.

    On June 8, a federal court declares a logging lease in Wood Buffalo National Park illegal, stopping clearcut logging in the park. The suit was filed by the Sierra Legal Defence fund.

    The Canada-Alberta Partnership Agreement in Forestry is signed by the governments of Alberta and Canada.  It is a 3-year agreement focusing on Reforestation & Intensive Forest Management; Research and Technology Transfer; and Public Information, Education, and Agreement Support.  The partners contribute $15 million each.

    The Government of Alberta is a signatory to the Canada Forest Accord.  The Canada Forest Accord is a formal commitment among diverse groups with different perspectives and objectives to work together on solutions to the challenges facing the forest.


    In October, the Daishowa case (see March 1990, below) goes to trial in Edmonton and continues to October 18. The applicants are unsuccessful in their challenge to the agreement between the province and Daishowa.

    In September, the province considers joining the national Heritage Rivers Program and placing the Athabasca River under its protection.  This is amid the controversy surrounding the building of the Al-Pac pulp mill northern Alberta.

    In spring, meetings began between representatives of Alberta Environmental Network and the Alberta Forest Products Association. Among the broad mandates that both groups possess is the intention to protect nature. These meetings eventually led to the formation of the Alberta Forest Conservation Strategy.

    The Canada-Alberta Partnership Agreement in Forestry is signed.  It is a 5-year agreement worth $30 million, and expires in 1995.


    On December 19, the federal government announces that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will spend up to $250,000 on a background study to learn more about the effect of clear-cut logging in the Prairie provinces will have on fish and fish habitat.

    In July, the Alberta Government announces a new policy for public involvement in forest management policy. The policy states that public involvement is mandatory for all companies holding forest management agreements.

    In June, the Complementary Scientific Review of the Proposed Alberta-Pacific Pulp Mill Project Environmental Impact Assessment is completed. The primary purpose of the project was to “review all of the available data on the effects of chlorinated organic compounds and the biological oxygen demand that would be discharged in the pulp mill effluents.”  Basing its conclusions on existing mills and mills under construction, the report suggests that the overall environmental impact of the mill would be minimal.

    In May, the University of Alberta Department of Forest Science publishes Forest Management in Alberta, a report of the Expert Review Panel. The members of the review panel are Lorne Brace, a forest research scientist; John Stelfox, a wildlife research scientist; Bob Udell, a professional forester; and Bruce Dancik (chair), a University of Alberta forestry professor.  The Executive Summary suggests that the panel is quite critical of the Alberta forestry industry and its practices; the report concludes with 133 recommendations for action.

    In March, a case is brought before the provincial court disputing the validity of an agreement between Daishowa Canada and the province regarding use of forested lands. Applicants in the case include Dianne Pachal of the AWA, Peter Reese, the Peace River Environmental Society and the Sierra Club of Western Canada. The applicants charge that the agreement between the province and Daishowa is void because it does not meet the requirements of the Forest Act; specifically, the Daishowa Forest Management Agreement does not indicate how the forests will be managed to ensure a perpetual sustained yield of all forest benefits.


    In November, an article entitled “The Great Forest Sell-Off” is published in The Globe and Mail Report on Business.  The article claims that “with astonishing haste, the Alberta government has dealt away the biggest untouched boreal forest in North America to a handful of giant pulp firms. Now environmentalists are up in arms, and the business logic is looking worse and worse.”

    In October, a report issued by Alberta Environment outlines the effects of pulp mill effluents on the Peace and Athabasca river systems. The report notes that some effluents are in keeping with current standards but others are not. (L. R. Noton, The Peace and Athabasca River Systems: A Synopsis of Alberta Environment’s Monitoring Programs and the Water Quality Effects of Existing Pulp Mill Effluents)

    On August 1, Motion 209 is moved in the Alberta Legislature by Grant Mitchell (MLA, Edmonton-Meadowlark). The motion states that the Legislature urge the government place a moratorium on construction of pulp and paper projects in northern Alberta until (a) an environmental assessment process is implemented, and (b) it is possible to ensure that emissions to water and air from these projects will have a negligible environmental impact. The debate is adjourned.

    In summer, LeRoy Fjordbotten announces the formation of Alberta’s Expert Review Panel on Forest Management. The members are Dr. John Stelfox of the Alberta Fish and Game Association; Dr. Bruce Dancik of the University of Alberta; Lorne Brace of the Canadian Forestry Service; and Bob Udell of Weldwood.  (The panel issues a report in May 1990).

    In June, a controversy ensues when it is learned that two Alberta public servants head organizations that have entered the battle against environmentalists over development of the province’s forests. Chuck Geale, director of program support for the Alberta Forestry Service, is president of the Alberta Forestry/Non-Government Association; Ken Higginbotham, director of forestry research at the Alberta Forestry Service, heads up the Alberta Registered Professional Foresters’ Association. Forestry Minister LeRoy Fjordbotten denies there is a conflict of interest.

    In April, Deputy Forestry Minister  leaves his government position to join U.S.-owned Weyerhauser Canada. He is instructed by the Forestry Minister not to take part in any timber negotiations before his departure on June 30, but insists that there is not conflict of interest.

    On January 10, the province’s director of reforestation, is quoted in an article in the Edmonton Journal: “38 per cent of the half-million hectares cut since 1966 are not stocked with healthy free-growing conifers.”

    January 5, negotiations begin on “tough regulations to ensure Alberta’s timber harvest is replaced with new trees,” according to the province’s reforestation director.


    In December, Alberta requires its pulp and paper industry to implement environmental standards which are reflective of leading edge technology. The goal is to reduce the production of dioxins and other organic compounds and minimize their release into the environment.

    The Alberta Government announces a new policy designed to give Albertans increased participation in the development of timber harvesting plans.

    In September, Alberta forest companies agree to broaden membership in their [unnamed] association, to include pulp and paper makers and panelboard manufacturers in the association of lumber producers.  The move part of an attempt to answer criticism levelled by environmental groups and other opponents.


    In October, the Canada-Alberta Forest Resource Development Agreement is signed under the Economic and Regional Development Agreement, for a five-year term worth $23 million.


    The National Forest Sector Strategy for Canada upholds the tenets of the 1981 Forest Sector Strategy for Canada; it is adopted by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers.


    In September, the Alberta Government announces the establishment of a Forest Industry Development Division, created to meet two main objectives:

    • to assist new and existing forest companies and private investors to expand and utilize Alberta’s vast “uncommitted forest resources” for a variety of forest products, and
    • to attract investment and private sector involvement in developing our renewable resources other than forests – for example, outdoor recreation.

    In April, the Premier of Alberta  halts a [herbicide] spraying program proposed by Champion Forest Products. The decision is “consistent with the [Forestry Department’s] policy not to allow herbicide spraying until public concerns have been resolved.”

    Alberta Forestry, Lands and Wildlife is created as a separate department out of the renewable resources sector of Alberta Energy and Natural Resources.

    In January, the Burgess-Lane Memorial Lectureship in Forestry, Forest Management in Alberta, is presented by the Deputy Forestry Minister for Alberta. The report provides good historical background information regarding land use policies and Forest Management agreements, as well as now historic information about the level of activity in Alberta’s forest industry in 1986.  The report generally favours growth in and expansion of the forest industry, and points out the untapped forestry resources in the northern Boreal forest.  The report is entirely in favour of expansion of forestry activities in Alberta; references to wildlife speak to hunting and trapping opportunities with no discussion of conservation.  Regarding the newly-established Kananaskis Country, the author notes his “concern over the possibility that large areas of forest will be allocated exclusively to recreation, and exclude forest management for other benefits.”  Several references are made to the Eastern Slopes Policy.

    Regarding Forest Management Agreements, the report states that “[i]t can be seen that the Forest Management Agreements have evolved from timber cutting rights to a continuing right to use the land for timber production and harvest.”


    The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers is established.

    The Alberta Registered Professional Foresters Association is established under the authority of the Forestry Profession Act.


    An article by J. Owen Saunders in Resources, the newsletter of the Canadian Institute of Resources Law, notes that the Alberta Forests Act of 1980 is “remarkably silent on the procedures to be followed by the government prior to allocation such a major block of Crown resources,” and points out the more stringent procedures of the British Columbia Forest Act.  The BC Act requires greater transparency and public involvement.


    Energy and Natural Resources Alberta publishes Forest Renewal: Taking Care of Tomorrow’s Forests Today. This publication explains the concept of Sustained Yield Forest Management which has been adopted by the provincial government. The booklet describes how a continuous supply of marketable trees can be provided by controlling the balance between the volume cut and the new growth – basically, reforestation. The booklet also explains the importance of Forest Management Agreements, Quota Certificates, and Commercial and Local Timber Permits.


    The Forest Industry in the Economy of Alberta, 1878-79 is published by the Northern Forest Research Centre, Canadian Forestry Service, Environment Canada. The abstract of the report states: “The forest industry in Alberta was surveyed in 1979. The results are analysed … in terms of forest resources, capital, employment impact, capacity and production, markets, annual revenues and expenditures, and socio-economic impact.” Like the earlier report of 1972, the report does not deal with environmental impact.


    A Forest Sector Strategy for Canada is issued; the federal role is to decrease international trade barriers, ensure a positive climate for investment, improve the resource data base, maintain forestry research and development, support provincial forest renewal programs and provide national forestry statistics.


    Alberta’s forestry industry expands to five times what it had been in the 1970s; expansion occurs primarily in northern Alberta. Expansion is fueled by in part by the collapse of oil prices in the early 1980s; forestry was seen as a way to diversify and stabilize the provincial economy. Another factor was the development of new technologies that enabled the cost-effective pulping of hardwood species such as aspen; aspen is the most common tree species in northern Alberta.


    The Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes states “The highest priority is placed on watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream users.”

    Following public hearings held in 15 centres in western Alberta regarding forestry operations, the The Environment Council publishes The Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta. The AWA’s submission to the Council is included in AWA Newsletter 9(2) Fall 1979.

    AWA’s submission includes: “The almost complete past allocation to timber harvest of Green Zone lands in most areas of the province prior to any survey of other needs (i.e. natural areas, wildlife reserves, wilderness areas, wildland recreation areas) may preclude subsequent disposition for competing land uses where timber harvesting would be incompatible.”


    The Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes states “The highest priority is placed on watershed management to ensure a reliable supply of clean water for aquatic habitat and downstream users.”

    Joint federal-provincial seven-year reforestation program is established under the Maintaining Our Forests Program, worth $25 million.

    Following public hearings held in 15 centres in western Alberta regarding forestry operations, the The Environment Council publishes The Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta. The AWA’s submission to the Council is included in AWA Newsletter 9(2) Fall 1979.

    AWA’s submission includes: “The almost complete past allocation to timber harvest of Green Zone lands in most areas of the province prior to any survey of other needs (i.e. natural areas, wildlife reserves, wilderness areas, wildland recreation areas) may preclude subsequent disposition for competing land uses where timber harvesting would be incompatible.”

    (Prior to the public hearings, the Environmental Conservation Authority publishes a series of Information Bulletins providing background information on Alberta’s forestry industry).


    In April, Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta: Fish and Wildlife Division Concerns and Recommendations is published by the Fish and Wildlife Division of Alberta Recreation, Parks and Wildlife. The Conclusion states “… many of the recommendations pertaining to the Fish and Wildlife Division in the previous reviews have … not been implemented [and] for many it is almost too late for implementation.”


    A National Forest Regeneration Conference is convened in response to concerns over forest regeneration and the availability of long-term timber supplies.

    Policy for Resource Management of the Eastern Slopes is adopted.


    Forest Utilization and its Environmental Effects in Alberta is published by the Environment Conservation Authority.  It is Information Bulletin #6, one of eleven bulletins pertaining to public hearings on The Environmental Effects of Forestry Operations in Alberta.  When it was presented at the hearings, it was considered to be of interest “because of its historical nature;” the Environment Conservation Authority distanced itself from the contents of the report.


    The Economic Importance of Sawmilling and Other Primary Wood-Using Industries in Alberta is published by the Northern Forest Research Centre of the Canadian Forestry Service, Environment Canada. The purpose of the report is “to better understand the size of Alberta’s forest industry and its economic impact on the provincial economy,” by assessing employment, salaries and wages, sales, products, and value added.  The report does not deal with environmental impact.


    Alberta’s Forests is published by the Alberta Department of Lands and Forests.  This 64 page publication provides broad, general information about Alberta’s forests. Regarding logging, the booklet outlines four aspects of effective utilisation of forests: “forestry practices must be designed to encourage growth and protect trees most in demand; harvesting methods must provide maximum volume of trees cut with minimum damage to the site and remaining trees; trees cut should be used to make the product they are best suited for; and the forest must be managed for continuous production.”

    The Canadian Council of Resource and Environment Ministers lobbies for the development of a national forest policy, and promotes the adoption of sustained yield forest management.

    The Forests Act retains types of tenure and quota system.


    An Act to amend the Forest Act makes provision for deciduous timber quota certificates, and for the calculation of coniferous and deciduous volumes within management units.  It also states that a FMA is designed to promote the growth and harvest of timber on a perpetual sustained yield.


    Provincial opposition to the conditional grant program, and constitutional barriers to an increased federal role in direct forest regulation, lead to the dissolution of the Department of Forestry; this was also the end of the shared-cost forestry programs which had been in existence since 1951.

    The federal Department of Forestry convenes the second National Forest Congress.

    “Mandatory reforestation was extended to the entire province with the introduction of the quota system.” From the program for the conference “The New Regeneration Standards,” CIF, Rocky Mountain Section, Sept. 14 & 15, 1990.


    An Act to amend the Forest Act provides for the introduction of the volume-based quota system


    An Act to amend the Forest Act states that a Minister could only exercise amending power in the interest of good forest management upon 30 days notice or with consent of the licensee.


    The Forests Act provides three types of tenure: forest management leases, licences, and a variety of permits.  It allows for Ministerial discretion in amending the terms and conditions of licences.  The FMA provision is simplified


    North Western Pulp and Power (later to become Weldwood) prepares Alberta’s first detailed forest management plan, with three paramount principles:

    • Practice sustained yield forest management,
    • Schedule the oldest ages first, and return them to fast-growing regenerated stands, and
    • Maintain a uniform log haul distance from the woods to the mill over time


    The federal Department of Forestry is created in under the Department of Forestry Act; it assumes responsibility for forest research, the funding of reforestation, fire protection, silviculture and inventory surveys.


    An Act to amend the Forest Act extends provisions for pulpwood agreements in the 1949 legislation to timber suitable for plywood.


    The Land and Forest Utilization Act establishes an interdepartmental committee to make recommendations on measures to preserve forest lands and regulate harvest


    North Western Pulp & Power signs the first Forest Management Agreement in Alberta.


    An Act to amend the Forest Act requires licence holders to submit annual cutting plans for approval and introduces manufacturing requirement on sawlogs.


    The Forests Act is proclaimed, and new policies implemented, including area-based agreements, 20-year renewable leases, and sustained-yield management. A detailed forest inventory is initiated to define the available wood supply (a requirement for attracting large forestry projects).

    The Forests Act gives jurisdiction over the control and administration of public lands, timber and forest fires to the Department of Lands and Forests. It provides for timber berths and licences, as well as permits. It makes the first provision for forest management licence – the continuous leasing of a designated area as long as the holder practices sustainable yield forestry.  It provides authority for the government to enter into agreements for the disposition of pulpwood with a company involved in manufacturing.  It allows for long term agreements in exchange for construction or manufacturing activities.  All timber acquired under the Act (except for dry pulpwood) is to be manufactured in the province.


    The Public Lands Act gives authority for the creation of a very large forest reserve in the North known as the “Green Belt” or “Green Area.”


    The Alberta Forest Service is established, providing the basis for administering and servicing the expanding forestry sector.  The Green Zone, which restricts the encroachment of agriculture onto lands best suited for forestry, is also established.


    The Eastern Rocky Mountain Forest Conservation Board is established jointly by the federal and provincial governments to address fire protection and regulation of harvesting.


    The Alberta Forest Products Association is established.  A non-profit organization, the AFPA represents most of the companies that manufacture lumber and related wood products in Alberta.  The AFPA promotes the lumber industry, oversees quality control, is concerned with health and safety issues, and acts as an information resource, works with associations, organizations, and others who use forests.


    The Department of the Interior is disbanded and federal forest administration is transferred to the Lands, Parks and Forest Branch of the Department of Mines and Resources.


    The Alberta Forest Reserves Act is passed; the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council is empowered to establish forest reserves for the maintenance, protection and reproduction of lumber, animals, birds and fish.

    The Provincial Lands Act continues the system of timber berths and permits which had been established under Dominion legislation. One-year licences for timber berth holders are tied to establishment of a mill, and payment of rent and royalties


    The Alberta Natural Resources Act is passed. The Natural Resource Transfer Agreements transfer jurisdiction over natural resources to the governments of the three prairie provinces, retaining power over the administration of Crown lands in the Yukon and Northwest Territories (as well as some federal lands within the provinces: reserves, national parks and military bases).


    The Canadian Institute of Forestry is established; the Rocky Mountain Section services Alberta.


    The government passes the Dominion Forest Reserves Act. The Act establishes 21 permanent forest reserves throughout the country. (The total area reserved in Alberta in 1906 was 6.2 million acres, including Cypress Hills and Cooking Lake, and the entire southern East Slopes. By 1915 this had grown to 14.5 million acres.)


    The importance of preserving the forests of the Eastern Slopes to protect our watersheds is noted in a letter written by J. S. Dennis, Chief Inspector of the Department of the Interior, Surveys and Irrigation. He writes, “In discussing the subject of the water supply in the arid portion of the Territories (prairie region), I have directed my attention to the important part which the preservation of the forests on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and the foothills plays in the permanence of this water supply.” He goes on to emphasize that “the permanency of our water supply is largely dependent upon the preservation of the forests at present covering the watershed, and this protection can only be secured by prohibiting the cutting of the timber…. To accomplish this preservation, it is respectfully urged that no more permits to cut the timber on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains south of the North Saskatchewan River, or in the foothills to the east of the Mountains be granted, and that some steps be taken to prevent the annual forest fires which sweep through that region. At present time there are some thirty or forty licenses in force authorizing the cutting of timber in the areas in question, covering in all, some 580 square miles, and as these licenses probably cover the larger portion of the area containing merchantable timber, no injustice will be done if further permits are refused. It may also be pointed out that the revenue received from timber permits or licenses in this region constitute a very small portion of the loss which will result to the whole western portion of the Territories from any diminution of the water supply, and this supply is certainly dependent upon the preservation of the forests in the watershed of the region. It is therefore respectfully urged that the magnitude of the interests involved justifies a determination on the part of the Department to refuse any further licenses to cut timber on the areas in question.”


    The Constitution Act grants each province ownership of “lands, mines, minerals and royalties.”  This marks the first step away from what had been a period of unregulated exploitation, and marks the beginning of a period of “regulation for profit and revenue enhancement.” From 1867 to 1930, the federal government holds considerable influence on forest management, as it owns Crown lands in the territories and three prairie provinces.

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If I were asked to illustrate a scene of utter serenity and peace, I would choose a picture of a mother grizzly wandering across flower-covered slopes with two small cubs gamboling at her heels. This is truly a part of the deep tranquility that is the wilderness hallmark.
- Andy Russell, 1975
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